Now is the time for trees. More and more Canadians have become aware of their powerful potential, whether that’s by reading about Suzanne Simard’s research on the connections between trees or through enjoying access to nature during the pandemic.
“Walking among the trees was one of the few things people could continue to do when everything else was shut down,” says Danielle St-Aubin, CEO of Tree Canada, a national non-profit organization dedicated to planting and nurturing trees in rural and urban environments. “People are paying more attention to the benefits of trees – and this is really translating into action.”
Tree Canada is catalyzing this momentum by stepping up efforts to green communities in partnership with government, corporations and individual donors. In 2019, the organization planted 350,000 trees. In the 2021 planting season, this number grew to over 917,000. For the coming year, the goal is set at over a million.
While it is common knowledge that “trees are fantastic at capturing and storing carbon, there is now more effort underway to show the value of trees in urban centres and communities,” says Ms. St-Aubin. “Previously, trees were often seen as a burden [on municipal coffers] due to the costs of planting and maintaining them. But we are learning more and more about their economic benefits.”
Trees reduce the heat island effect in cities by cooling surface and air temperatures. In addition, they improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, shelter wildlife, help to capture stormwater, boost property values and create tourism opportunities, she explains. “People may visit Montreal to walk through Mount Royal, a large urban park.
“I hope this shift in how people perceive urban trees is going to continue, because we are still losing canopy cover at an alarming rate.”
Fortunately, many like-minded partners are teaming up with Tree Canada, says Ms. St-Aubin. “Organizations are increasingly looking to be active participants in environmental stewardship. Sponsorships and donations have enabled us to grow exponentially over the past few years. Together with our partners and sponsors, we now have planted more than 84 million trees over our 30-year history.”
An example of a decade-long partnership is Tree Canada’s collaboration with CN, which has led to planting and maintaining a total of 2,081,505 trees across the country (by the end of 2020). These initiatives have helped green communities in need, re-establish urban and rural forests, and increase the number of schoolyard trees.
Ms. St-Aubin sees Tree Canada’s schoolyard greening program as “one of our most important endeavours, since it inspires children to appreciate trees.
“When I was a kid, there was a huge maple tree growing in our neighbourhood, and it served as a mini-playground for all of us. We would climb it, play hide-and-seek or just shelter in the shade,” she says. “As an adult, I realize that this tree was a creator of experiences – and I hope our over 700 schoolyard greening projects will have similar long-term impacts.”
Tree Canada is also partnering with the federal government to help advance the Growing Canada’s Forests program, which envisions planting two billion trees by 2030. It is estimated that these efforts could help to sequester between 1.8 and 4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year starting around 2030 – and achieve a reduction of 12 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, according to think-tank Smart Prosperity.
“That’s the kind of partnership we like to see, where everyone can get engaged, including corporations, communities and government,” adds Ms. St-Aubin. “It’s thrilling to be involved.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Canada’s Clean50. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.